The New Testament of the Inclusive Language Bible

Article excerpt

The New Testament of the Inclusive Language Bible. Notre Dame: Crossroads, 1994, vii + 297 pp., $19.95. The New Testament and Psalms: An Inclusive Version. New York and Oxford: Oxford University, 1995, xxii + 535 pp., n.p.

The publication of the New Revised Standard Version (1989) inaugurated a new era in Bible translation by endeavoring to produce a translation of Scripture without gender bias with regard to humanity. Two recent volumes follow suit but go beyond the selective policy of the NRSV by applying inclusive language to both divine and human characters and by eliminating pejorative references to race, color and religion.

Crossroads' Inclusive Language New Testament is marked by thrift in both style and format. The translation is generally straightforward and economical, avoiding technical terminology. It falls short of high literary or poetic quality but remains clear and understandable, and the wording is not unfelicitous. As in nearly all modern translations, paragraphs are divided by theme rather than verse. Verse numbers are printed in superscript in the text and descriptive titles appear in bold print at the head of paragraphs.

The volume is a no-frills NT. There are no "helps" common to most Bibles: no maps, charts or tables, no introductions to the various books of the NT, no footnotes, annotations or variant readings. Readers are given no information concerning why one reading is chosen over another, or even that variant readings are possible. "When in doubt, leave out" seems to be the rule with variant readings (e.g. the omission of John 5:4 or the doxology of the Lord's prayer in Matt 6:8). Occasionally, however, questionable variants are inexplicably included (e.g. Luke 22:43-44).

A one-page foreword justifies the translation along gender lines. The publishers accept the "imperatives that require us to change the language of the Bible" so as not to "perpetuate the inequalities between the sexes that existed in earlier societies" (p. vi). The foreword leaves unaddressed, however, the significant and subtle issues of language, culture and theology, and this is a serious omission given the agenda of the volume.

Oxford University Press' New Testament and Psalms: An Inclusive Version is a finely bound volume intended for use in public liturgy. Not only does it include the Psalms in addition to the NT, but it also has a 15-page general introduction explaining its major differences from the NRSV and its rationale for inclusiveness. The text is handsomely presented with topic headings, variant readings where appropriate and superscript verse numbers in the text. Especially welcome is the sensitivity to hymns and creeds embedded in the NT, which are printed in verse format.

Like the Crossroads volume, Oxford's translation attempts to render negligible all references to gender, disabilities and racial differences. It not only attempts to anticipate developments in the English language but to accelerate them (pp. viii-ix). All language offenses, real or imagined, are drawn, quartered-and neutered. Jesus is no longer the Son (of God), but the "Child." References to "Lord" are severely diminished. Kingdom becomes "dominion"; King, "ruler" or "sovereign"; Son of Man, "the Human One." Devils and angels are emasculated to avoid either vilifying or glorifying men. References to darkness are translated out to avoid pejorative connotations to darkskinned peoples. "Right hand" is rendered "might and power" to avoid injury to lefties or leftists. John's frequent references to "the Jews" as opponents of Jesus have been replaced by "the religious authorities" in hopes of undermining anti-Semitic uses of the NT. Children need no longer obey their parents (Col 3:20; Eph 6:1), only "heed" them; and wives should be "committed to" their husbands (Eph 5:22; 1 Pet 3:1, 5), rather than submissive to them. In a fair shake to parenting, the names of wives have been added to the genealogies, although happily names have not been invented where unknown. …